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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Cry … my beloved Pretoria

So ... a toxic relationship, with a partner who says they love you, but tells you using someone else’s direct message.


Living in Pretoria and writing about the City of Tshwane as a journalist is like being in a toxic relationship. It’s a love-hate situation, where we keep promising we will do better but we never do – and like any bad relationship, or when couples decide to stay together for the sake of the kids, it’s an unloving environment. I love Pretoria. It’s more than the Union Buildings, Menlyn Park shopping mall or the efficient highways. Things are just better here compared to Johannesburg (no offence to Johannesburg). I’ve lived here for five-odd years and I promised myself I would…

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Living in Pretoria and writing about the City of Tshwane as a journalist is like being in a toxic relationship.

It’s a love-hate situation, where we keep promising we will do better but we never do – and like any bad relationship, or when couples decide to stay together for the sake of the kids, it’s an unloving environment.

I love Pretoria.

It’s more than the Union Buildings, Menlyn Park shopping mall or the efficient highways. Things are just better here compared to Johannesburg (no offence to Johannesburg).

I’ve lived here for five-odd years and I promised myself I would never move back to Joburg again. Tshwane is prettier, greener and cleaner, which is ironic because things are not moonlight and roses here, either.

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We have many challenges in Pretoria: water issues in Hammanskraal, Mamelodi and Centurion and some areas struggle with prolonged power cuts and sewage problems, like many places in the country.

Last year, when Cilliers Brink became mayor, I was excited and hopeful about the changes his appointment would bring. He looks the part and talks the talk, but I don’t know if he walks the walk.

So … a toxic relationship with a partner who says they love you, but tells you using someone else’s direct message.

The relationship started great; the mayor spoke, we pitched up and we wrote about what he said. Easy.

However, this simple arrangement became compromised once I started asking questions and the City of Tshwane ghosted me.

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The city only answers what it wants to. If your don’t play along with its narrative, you’re uninvited to a media briefing in Mamelodi and left hanging for days, weeks or months.

Before you shoot the messenger, mayor Brink, go and ask other journalists, because it’s not just me.

Here goes the second shot: time and again, the spokespersons at the City of Tshwane pretend to be working on a response but, instead, disappear like mist before sunrise on deadline.

I am still waiting for comments from a number of stories and, yes, I have all the e-mail inquiries to prove it. Again, I am not the only journalist who feels this way.

The story doesn’t stop there, because when you approach the city’s opposition for a comment, like the Economic Freedom Fighters or independent councillors, you are the great traitor, the outcast – and, again, you don’t get invited to media briefings.

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This week, Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen commented on the situation in Tshwane, saying it was still in better shape than many other municipalities. John, I agree.

What I don’t agree with is that journalists, go out weekly and sit in the sun for hours while municipal workers march and strike for salary increases. We speak to the workers, who say they can’t pay school fees or payoff debt, we see all the tears and the fears in the communities.

As a resident, I saw how my beloved clean and pretty Pretoria deteriorated during the municipal strike and reported on many of the incidents – including the violence and the delay in service delivery.

Ironically, many of the media inquiries that are still left unanswered come from complaints by residents, who ran to the media after being ignored – or ghosted.

Then follows a statement apologising for the inconvenience and the promise of fixing things – just like a toxic partner would.

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In contrast to popular belief, journalists don’t wake up each day and wonder how they can make the municipality’s work harder.

We get stories from contacts and the communities, we don’t suck it out of our thumbs, I promise. The problem already exists.

Don’t shoot the messenger. We are just telling the stories of the people.

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